Fences can make your outdoor spaces more useable and more appealing. Fences afford a sense of privacy, safe places for children, and areas for pets. Maintaining a fence in good repair is essential for the fence’s aesthetics and the security the fence can provide. When a fence post begins to lean, many homeowners wonder how to straighten the post without removing it.
Addressing a fence post that leans is dependent on the setting method. Post set directly into the soil can often be returned to upright by digging around the post base and repacking the soil. Posts set in a concrete footer can be returned to position using ketal wedges or devices to pull or push the post back into position.
Fixing a fence post that leans is a project that most homeowners can handle with few problems. Returning the post to upright can be accomplished by following a few simple instructions and with only a few tools. Most of these fixes require a minimal amount of time, usually less than an afternoon.
Table of Contents
- Straightening a Leaning Post Set in the Soil
- Step 1 – Remove Any Stress or Weight on the Affected Posts
- Step 2 – Examine the Post
- Step 3 – Remove Soil from the Side of the Post Away from the Lean
- Step 4 – Use a Level to Ensure the Post is Straight Up and Down
- Step 5 – Replace the Soil at the Post Base
- Step 6 – Don’t Get in a Hurry
- Step 7 – Reinstall the Fencing
- Posts Set in Concrete Footers
- Keeping Things Sturdy and Straight
- Getting Things Back in Order
Straightening a Leaning Post Set in the Soil
If your fence posts sit directly in the soil, it is not unusual to have one or more posts begin to lean. Fortunately, the lack of concrete around the base of the post makes the repair much easier.
Step 1 – Remove Any Stress or Weight on the Affected Posts
You need access to the fence post without any interference. Getting access to the post usually means removing the rails and pickets from the post that leans. Depending on the construction of your fence, you may remove entire panels of fencing between the posts.
Step 2 – Examine the Post
Check the post carefully. You want to make sure that the post is still structurally sound. The reason for the lean may be rot at the base of the post. If the post is rotten or has insect damages, the post should be replaced rather than straightened.
Step 3 – Remove Soil from the Side of the Post Away from the Lean
Use a shovel or spade to remove soil next to the post’s side away from the direction the post is leaning. With the soil removed from around the post, try to push the post back into an upright position.
In some cases, the post may shift out of alignment with the other posts in the fence line. In this case, you will need to dig out around the post to move it back into proper alignment.
Step 4 – Use a Level to Ensure the Post is Straight Up and Down
A carpenters bubble level is the best tool for this job. Put the post in position and level it by checking all the sides of the post. When you have the post perfectly upright, attach to lengths of lumber to the top of the post and stake the lumber’s bottom to the ground forming a forty-five-degree angle.
These lumber pieces will hold the post upright as you begin to tamp the soil back into place.
Step 5 – Replace the Soil at the Post Base
Return the soil to the hole around the post. Shovel a layer of soil into the hole and then use a length of lumber to tamp the soil into place. It helps if the soil is damp but not sloppy wet. Continue to add layers of soil to the hole and tamp the soil into place until you fill the hole.
Step 6 – Don’t Get in a Hurry
Don’t be in a hurry to reinstall the fencing. After 24 hours, re-tamp the soil around the post to ensure that it is tight and there are no voids. The soil may settle as it dries. If this is the case, add more soil to the post’s base and tamp it firmly.
Step 7 – Reinstall the Fencing
When the soil is firm in the hole, and the post is tight, you can reinstall the rails and fencing. You may need to add more soil over time and tamp firmly. Settling of the soil is not unusual where fence posts are set without concrete.
Fence posts set in concrete footers that begin to lean are often a sign of more serious problems. Before straightening a fence post set in concrete, you must examine the post and the concrete for damage.
What to Look for When a Concreted Post Starts to Lean
Damage to the post or the concrete is the most common cause of a leaning post. Remove any soil or plant material from the bottom of the post so you can see both the concrete and the post. The signs of bigger problems include:
Signs of Rot, Cracks, or Insect Damage
If the leaning post shows obvious signs of cracking, rot, or insect damage, the fence post is beyond repair and replacement is the only option. All too often, fence posts set in concrete collect water at the bottom of the concrete, damaging the fence post over time.
Cracking can occur naturally or may indicate mechanical damage such as an automobile or other vehicle’s impact. Insect damage is likely if untreated posts were originally installed
If the concrete footer at the base of the post shows cracks, several alternatives are for repairing the post without replacement are available. Most home improvement stores sell a variety of kits to repair leaning fence posts. These kits differ in the approach they use to repair the leaning fence post. The usual repair requires adding a metal support structure to the bottom of the fence post to replace the cracked concrete.
The Fix-A-Fence Solution
One brand name product is called Fix-a-fence. The Fix-a-Fence solution involves a metal bracket and a metal stake installed adjacent to the post. Installing this kit requires several steps and pouring cement to support the metal bracket.
Step 1 – Prepare the Site. To prepare the site for the Fix-a-Fence kit, you must dig a hole eight inches from the fence post that leans. A pair of post hole diggers are the preferred method for making this hole.
The hole should be on the side of the fence post, away from the lean direction. The hole should be eighteen inches deep. If you don’t use post hole diggers, make sure the hole has nice clean vertical sides.
Step 2 – Prepare the Fix-a-Fence Kit. Screw the pole shaped piece of the kit into the support bracket and tighten securely. The round pole shaped piece will go into the round in the hole you have just prepared.
Step 3 – Position the Bracket in the Hole. Put the bracket against the fence post with the round rod in the hole. The vertical section of the brace should be flush against the post. Hold the brace in position and make sure it is level and upright. You may need to have a friend hold the bracket in place.
Step 4 – Mix a 60lb Bag of Concrete. Follow the directions on the bag of cement to mix. Add the correct amount of water to the dry mix and stir thoroughly using a hoe or shovel.
Step 5 – Fill the Hole with Concrete. Shovel the concrete into the hole. Be careful not to get concrete on the bracket if you are concerned with the fence’s looks. Fill the hole evenly on all sides and until the concrete is level with the surface of the ground.
Use a stick to tamp the concrete into the hole. Tamping will force out any air and push the concrete into any voids or pockets. Check the position of the bracket and adjust it if needed before the concrete begins to set.
Step 6 – Take a Break While the Concrete Cures. Allow the concrete to cure at least 24 hours before you return to work on the post. Once you are sure the concrete fully cures according to the packaging directions, you can go back to work on the post.
Step 7 – Reposition the Fence Post and Attach the Bracket. Carefully pull the fence post back into position. When the fence post is straight, drive the provided screw the provided lag bolts into the fence post. Reinstall the fencing on the fence post. Your fence post should be firm and secure for many more years.
Keeping Things Sturdy and Straight
Like any other structure, fences need maintenance and attention over time to remain in good and useable condition. There are some strategies you can regularly employ to keep your fence in top condition.
- Check the posts regularly for damage, rot, or insect problems. Treated fence posts should last for many years if they are placed properly and maintained.
- Inspect the rails that run between the fence posts. The rails are subject to drying and dry rot. Check the screws or nails that hold the rails to the post. The joints should be tight.
- Inspect the pickets or other fencing material. Pickets that nailed to the rails tend to shrink over time. As the wood shrinks, it causes the nails to become loose and can allow pickets to work free. Add nails or screws where necessary.
- Oil and inspect the hinges and latches at the gates. These metal items are exposed to the weather. A little maintenance will keep them working well for years.
Getting Things Back in Order
If you do have a problem with your fence’s posts, it is much better to address the problem sooner rather than later. A sagging fence because of a leaning fence post puts stress on the rest of the fence causing more damage.
We hope that this article gives you the information and understanding you need to address your fence’s leaning fence posts. The earlier these problems are repaired, the less costly and time consuming the repairs should be.